Whether Immigrants or Refugees should be excluded because of their Religion or Country of Origin
The increased cases of terrorism in the world have prompted the United States to exclude some immigrants based on their religion and country of origin. This is in line with the statutory provisions of providing homeland security to protect citizens from acts of terrorism. The debate on who should be excluded is a very controversial issue following the implementation of the executive order that temporarily suspends the immigration of refugees and the residents of seven countries who are in need of valid visas. The American immigration policies concerning restrictions started to be implemented in the 1880s and have seen several groups of people being barred from immigrating to the United States (Ngai, 2015). The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 gives the president the powers to place a temporary order restricting the immigration of people based on their countries of origin. The law was enacted by the Congress to allow the president to suspend the immigration of individuals from certain nationalities temporarily. However, the opponents of the immigration policy believe that the President’s executive order is contrary to the constitution and violates the laws concerning separation powers as outlined in the constitution. In the past, residents of other countries who were moving to the United States were subjected to religious tests. Besides, there were other criteria’s which were followed before one was allowed in. Furthermore, those who identified themselves with particular moral and political philosophies were also barred from moving to the United States. In this paper, I will discuss whether immigrants or refugees should be excluded from entry into the US based on their religion and country of origin.
Today, the authority to determine who is supposed to become a citizen or live in the United States of America relies on the federal government. The first immigration requirement was set in the year 1790 by the Congress. The law required those who wanted to acquire the citizenship of the United States to reside in the country for two years. This would give the concerned authorities powers to determine whether such a person is suitable for the citizenship or not. The exclusion was never based on the nationality or religious grounds. The laws on immigration policies are enforced by the executive and the Congress. The immigration policies are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court through its various decisions allows the President and Congress to be responsible for immigration policies. In most cases, the laws are passed by the Congress and then implemented by the executive arm of government.
The Congress enacted the first law concerning direct immigration in the year 1875. The law was known as the Page Act, and it outlined the various groups of people who should be excluded as immigrants. The law outlined the specific criteria to be used by the port inspectors to determine those who should be allowed to move to the United States. The law banned prostitutes and criminals only. However, there was no exclusion based on religion or country of origin. In the year 1882, the Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act restricted the movement of Chinese laborers to the United States. The subsequent laws expanded the restrictions to exclude other Chinese ethnic groups from entering the United States. The decision to determine who should be barred from entry in the United States relies upon the legislature and the executive. The Supreme Court does not have the preliminary power to determine immigration matters. For instance, in the case of Chae Chan Ping v. the United States concerning the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Supreme Court ruled that it was the responsibility of the legislature and the executive to determine immigration matters. In this case, exclusion based on religion or country of origin should be only applicable if such people are a threat to the national security and social well-being of the population of the US.
The international human rights documents advocates for the rights of religious freedom and immigration. For instance, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) asserts that no one should be barred from seeking asylum in any given country regardless of religion or country of origin. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the United States is a signatory also promotes the right to seek asylum in other countries especially those suffering from political persecution. Therefore, before deciding to exclude refugees and immigrants, the President should refer to these two international human rights documents.
The two international human documents obligate different countries in the world to assist refugees and immigrants who are running away from political persecution in their country’s of the resident. The immigrants should be helped without any religious prejudice. The UDHR and ICCPR do not outline the number of refugees or immigrants that a country should host. However, the determination should not be based on religion and country of origin. The decision should be based on appropriate quotas, and the immigrants and the refugees should be thoroughly vetted to determine whether they are a security threat to the hosting country. The vetting process should be carried out in line with the provisions of the ICCPR and UDHR. According to the provisions of the two documents, it is illegal to refuse or fail to admit a refugee or immigrant based on religious beliefs and nationality. In the United States, Christians are quickly accepted compared to Muslims. Every nation should not refuse to provide protection for people who are escaping political persecution (Ngai, 2015). The international human rights documents prohibit discrimination based on religious beliefs and nationality. The United States is home to over 4.5 million immigrants. However, due to the increasing insecurity threats from Muslim nations the country has temporarily suspended immigration of people from seven Muslim countries.
The ICCPR is binding on the United States as an international treaty law and domestic federal law. In this case, the United States cannot implement and immigration policy that discriminates against nationality and religion of immigrants. The United States also has its policy regarding immigration. However, it should be by the provisions as stipulated in both the UDHR and ICCPR. The US policy on immigration should not override the obligations under ICCPR and UDHR. The US policy on immigration provides the criteria which should be adhered to by the Department of Immigration for those seeking asylum as a result of political persecution. However, it depends upon the discretion of the President to determine which groups of people are qualified for admission. Both ICCPR and the Constitution of the United States of America asserts that religion and nationality should not form a basis or factor for failing to admit those who are seeking political asylum. In the case of the Constitution, if religion and nationality are used as the basis of admission then it would conflict the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952.
The constitution does not allow the United States to favor one country or religion over the other. It is obligated by the international treaty laws and the federal constitution to provide refuge to individuals who are fleeing political persecution from their home countries. In this case, exclusion of people based on their religion and country of origin is not legally tenable. However, the United States is obligated to ensure the safety of its population. In this case, the executive and the legislature will work in unison to provide measures that regulate the immigration of people from various religions or countries that are considered as a threat to national security. The increased cases of terrorism attacks on different countries such as Paris in France and California forced the President to issues an executive order barring the movement of people from seven Muslim countries considered as a threat to national security. Before implementing such a decision, the executive and the Congress must consider the constitutional provisions and the possible consequences. Religion is not an establishment of the constitution. As such, the constitution allows the United States to refuse to provide refuge to people escaping political persecution if they are a threat to the homeland security. Most Muslims are always linked to terrorism activities. Therefore, the decision to temporarily suspend their immigration is rational. This will allow the country to ensure that its homeland security is maintained and citizens protected from acts of terrorism. However, the decision to temporarily suspend the immigration of seven Muslim states is contrary to the First Amendment Clause. This decision favors non-Muslims refugees over their Muslims counterparts. The government of the United States is not refusing to admit the Muslims refugees as viewed by individuals and other nations. But the decision is concerning matters of national security since Muslims are always linked to terrorism.
Today, the immigration system has developed and is more complex compared to the older exclusion laws. The Immigration and Naturalization Act allows the US to admit a maximum of 675, 000 immigrants on a permanent basis. This act allows for registration of close family members. However, the potential immigrants must be evaluated to determine if they are suited to stay in the United States. The evaluation is usually done by country of origin, employment history, and family relations. The criteria used in the determination of those who are potential immigrants and are eligible for valid visas exclude those who have criminal records and have specific health conditions (Leonard, 2017). Potential immigrants who are linked to terrorist’s activities are usually excluded. Besides, those who persuade others to join and participate in terrorist activities are also excluded. Furthermore, potential immigrants who have directly supported terrorist activities or organization are excluded. The new immigration laws also exclude people who are perceived to members of a totalitarian party. Besides, those who are affiliated to Communist countries are excluded. However, members of totalitarian party or Communist who have ceased to belong to such parties may be considered and issued with valid visas. This is an exceptional case, and it depends on the ruling government.
The United States has a humanitarian obligation to provide asylum to refugees and immigrants who are seeking asylum on their soil. The United States have to handle the situation of such refugees and immigrants based on the international laws and the Federal laws on immigration. The immigrants should be offered refuge in good faith if they pass all the criteria in place following immigration. Even though, the President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring people from various nationals and religions from moving to the United States (Leonard, 2017). The order cannot override the domestic obligations of the country to provide asylum to those who are escaping political persecutions from their country of origin. The UN Convention against Torture of which the United States is a signatory prohibits the nation from returning those who are seeking political asylum to their country of origin in cases where they would face serious harm or torture.
Under the international law, of which the United States is a signatory, people should not be excluded based on country of origin. The United States has ratified different international treaties that prevent it from discriminating people based on race and religious beliefs. Therefore, its immigration policies must act within the international treaties which it has signed (Leonard, 2017). There should be no discrimination as far as exclusion is concerned. However, with the increased cases of terrorism, the United States has temporarily suspended issuance of visas for people who come from various countries and possess Muslim faith. Such countries include Somali, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria. These countries are associated with terrorists. As such, people from these countries will be excluded based on their religion and country of origin.
Immigrants and refugees should not be excluded based on their religion and country of origin. This is contrary to the international treaty laws and the federal laws. However, under extraordinary situations where the country is committed to homeland security, it can exclude refugees and immigrants based on their country of origin and religion. For instance, the United States has temporarily suspended immigration of people from seven countries who possess Muslim faith.
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